Posts Tagged ‘Metrolink’

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Modern Streetcars could be coming to Downtown Kansas City

August 23, 2011

Today, while randomly exploring Kansas City, I walked into Union Station during a Open House event featuring a modern trolley that KC leaders would like to see downtown by 2015.  The model on display, courtesy of Kinkisharyo, was a new ameriTRAM designed specifically for American cities wishing to bring back streetcars.

ameriTRAM on Display in Kansas City, MO

Its bragging points include a 100 percent low floor and an “e-hybrid” system designed to run on overhead power or lithium-ion batteries for up to five miles.  Even while operating on batteries it has several security cameras, wireless internet, and lcd information screens.   The light weight cars will not necessitate bridge replacement on the proposed routes through downtown Kansas City, and will help to lower the cost of laying track.  Because the plans include only routes that are around two miles long, overhead wires are unnecessary, eliminating not only a possible eyesore but also the associated expenses.

Map of Proposed Streetcar Routes in Downtown Kansas City

Coincidentally, the length of the Loop Trolley in St. Louis is approximately two miles long as well.  Could our local streetcar project use the ameriTRAM?  Could completely eliminating overhead power help lower the price tag?  One of the first things that this blog did was come out against the Loop Trolley project.  I still don’t think that this particular implementation is a great addition to our transit system because it does little more than duplicate the coverage of the Metrolink and the 97 Delmar Bus.  Other critics have argued that it just connects Blueberry Hill to the Pagent.  If the project is perceived as a failure, it could help prevent new investment in more substantial public transit infrastructure in the future.  On the other hand, streetcars are awesome, and the potential for this project to spur expansions is too exciting to ignore.  To best take advantage of this opportunity, we must make sure that the Loop Streetcar is effective and well received.  One easy and substantive way to make this project more legitimate is to use cutting edge technology – the latest modern streetcars.  In my opinion, a sleek, modern and attractive streetcar will be even more enticing to the curious pedestrian or motorist than a replica of a historic trolley.  I think it’s an option worth considering.  The advantages are considerable.

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Metrolink Bridge over Vandeventer appears to be designed for Murals

January 31, 2011

As I have previously written, The Grove (also known as Forest Park Southeast) is home to a growing number of murals that really make a big impact on the perceptions of a visitor to the neighborhood.  Although The Grove has a wonderful start, its collection of murals is still quite small, at least in comparison to the large number of blank walls facing Manchester (and other side streets in the neighborhood).  With the addition of the neon sign at Manchester and Sarah, The Grove is becoming more and more of an attractive place, and I am convinced that this investment will pay off.

New Neon "Welcome to The Grove" Sign

A great way to add to this momentum is with more murals, and what better place to start but at more of the neighborhood’s “thresholds.”  With neighbors like Barnes Jewish, Wash U Med School and St. Louis University, those points of entry that are visible to these significant populations hold lots of potential.  As a SLU student I would often hike over to the Phillips 66 on Vandeventer for their competitively priced tall cans of Budweiser, but was totally unaware of The Grove’s existence just a couple of short blocks away.  In addition, I felt that the dismal walk from Campus was only barely worth the cheap beer.

Now, the Rail Bridge over Vandeventer just south of Highway 40 has been rebuilt, and it has indented arches along both sides of the roadway, and in the support that splits the opposing lanes of traffic.

Train Bridge over Vandeventer – Doesn’t it seem to be asking for Murals?

These spaces seem to be designed for murals, and I really hope that whoever is responsible for this bridge (Metro?) is open to the idea.  I truly believe that SLU students would be more willing to walk to attractions in the Grove if the walk itself were more attractive.  Right now, passing underneath the highway and train tracks is the scariest part of the trip.  Bright and Colorful Murals underneath one of the bridges could not only make the walk more enjoyable right away, they could also encourage the addition of even more artwork to the area, maintaining the momentum that has been building here for several years now.

For more on the Grove’s Murals, see MUMC.Wordpress.com.

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New Scott Transit Plaza loses Neighbors

December 19, 2010

Last weekend I noticed that one of my favorite buildings had come down.  While driving down 40, I glanced towards the Armory and saw a large lot of dirt to its south instead of the corrugated-steel warehouse that was there last time I had looked.

Beck and Corbitt Steel on Spring

I admit that the building was not an architectural marvel, or even particularly attractive, but I loved it.  With its ring of graffiti underneath the large letters announcing its former tenant, this building told the story of the area now and in the past.  It had me imagining what it was like alongside the train tracks running through the middle of the city when they were alive and productive here.  Only two blocks south of Market Street and directly on the tracks, this was a prime location.  In addition to all of this, the building had a small feature that really attracted me to it.  This Bear (or Badger as I have always called him) was on the West side of the building.  I will miss it.

The Badger

I originally speculated that this would be the site of Metro’s new Park and Ride lot for the new Scott Transit Plaza, but was corrected by Jennifer from NextStopSTL (Thanks!).  Unfortunatly, I still don’t know why this block was raized.  Maybe the land is going to be used by whoever is in the former May Company Warehouse that sits across Spring.

Gone

A couple google searches taught me that the Million square foot warehouse sold by Macy’s last year for 2 million dollars has at least 2 tenants now: Hazzard Moving and Storage, and Warehouse of Stuff.  Hopefully this land will be used productivly for those tenants or maybe for some future plans for the Armory (wouldn’t that be cool?).   I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but whatever it is, I won’t forget what was here before.

600 S. Spring

I really wish progress didn’t have to be so destructive.

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Light Rail in Denver and Salt Lake City

September 5, 2010

I recently spent some time in both Denver and Salt Lake City, both places that have many examples of urban planning successes and failures that serve as great learning experiences.  Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Salt Lake’s “The Gateway” and City Creek Center developments represent large downtown projects worthy of serious study.  One thing that all three of these developments have in common is the fact that they are served by light rail that runs on city streets.  Both light rail systems are also very similar to ours in St. Louis (we use Siemens SD-400 and SD-460, while Denver and Salt Lake both use the SD-100 and SD-160).  The main difference between St. Louis’ Metrolink and TheRide in Denver/UTA Trax in Salt Lake City is the height of the platforms and the lack of a dedicated right of way (at least in the center city).  Because the platforms are basically just the sidewalks in Denver or sidewalk-like medians in Salt Lake, entering the train requires walking up steps (like getting onto the bus).  To accommodate people with disabilities or parents with strollers, etc.,  both systems have ramps leading up to elevated platforms at the front of each train.

18th and California Station - Denver, Colorado

The elevated section of the platform can be seen towards the back of the above photo.  Below is a picture of a UTA Trax Train approaching a platform, with the accessible section towards the lower right of the photo.

UTA Trax Train in Downtown Salt Lake City

A view from the platform itself provides a better idea of how this raised section really works.

UTA Trax Accessible Train Entry

Seeing this system firsthand was a really good experience for me, because it served as confirmation that a new  Metrolink lines could run right down the middle (or edges) of our excessively wide avenues in St. Louis.  In particular, the new North-South line could run through downtown on Tucker (12th Street) and extend South along Gravois (which Tucker turns into) and North along N. Florissant (which Tucker also turns into).  On the North side, the line could make a Westward turn onto Natural Bridge from N. Florissant to provide a more central route.  Because Tucker is currently being torn up and replaced just North of Downtown, this would be a great place (and time) to begin the project.  The route could connect to the existing Metrolink line with a Viaduct stop similar to the Grand Station, or riders could simply walk the two blocks to 14th street or the 4 blocks to 8th street to change lines.  Maybe it could be the Green Line!

Possible Future Metrolink Map?

I know this idea is not by any means new, and a similar route is what most of us have been hoping we’ll get in the near future (particularly since the passage of Prop A), but I really think that this line on existing city streets would be most affordable, and would have the potential to do the most good.  Extending Metrolink along Highway 55 is silly to me, because the areas around the highway are not pedestrian friendly.  Gravois could really use some pedestrian activity to activate businesses that already exist and create a demand for more businesses along this street which essentially serves as a high speed thruway.   The addition of light rail to this corridor will also reduce the auto traffic.

On the North side this line would serve as a much needed catalyst to spur development along the largely abandoned shoulders of N. Florissant (many of which are clean slates for new construction) and would also connect the steadily improving Old North St. Louis neighborhood with Downtown.  Although Buses will remain the centerpiece of our regional transportation system, expanding our light rail increases the visibility of transit, the likelihood that it will be used, and that the neighborhoods it serves will be explored.

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Vote Yes on Prop A April 6th!

March 16, 2010

Today I spent some time at the Brentwood Metrolink Station.  I was shocked by the large number of people who were both registered voters in St. Louis County and direct consumers of transit, but were unaware that Prop A is on the ballot.  Luckily I had some great conversations with Metro riders and hopefully convinced a few extra people to make it out to the polls.

Metrolink in Clayton

Due to my very positive experience today, I would like to encourage everyone who uses transit and is a proponent of Prop A, to start conversations about it.  Transit users have great motivation to vote on April 6th, but they will not make it to the polls if they are unaware of what is going on.  We need every vote we can get so take Metro to the County and start a conversation!

UPDATE:

An excellent editorial and cartoon appeared in today’s Post-Dispatch (Sunday March 21st) on the subject of Prop A.  I highly recommend giving this a read and spreading the word.

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A day trip on Metro

March 14, 2010

Today I decided to take a day trip using public transportation.  I walked down to Manchester, took the 57 Downtown to the Civic Center, and then hopped the Link out to Belleville, Illinois AKA Belle-Vegas.

The trip was very interesting – the view contrasts sharply on the two sides of the river, with Illinois being predominantly woods and rural looking homes (at least in my opinion).  I imagine that this trip would be very pleasant and surrounded by a lot of green during the summertime.  Being able to really enjoy the scenery is wonderful for someone like me who usually drives places.  Not having to focus on the road lets you notice so many wonderful little things!  Being a pedestrian and a transit rider is great – especially if you are a photographer. Despite the cool and damp weather, I had a great time exploring this small but well preserved town (and seeing some new Ghost Signs).

Ghost Sign on the Exchange Club of Belleville

Ghost Sign on the Exchange Club of Belleville

I was getting pretty hungry by the time I made it to Main Street, but the only places open to eat were Quizno’s, St. Louis Bread Company, and Jimmy Johns (okay there was also a Caribbean restaurant but I just didn’t feel like it).  They must really love sandwiches in Belleville.  I’m surprised that I didn’t see a Subway.

Bread Company on Main Street in Belleville, Illinois

Instead of eating at one of these chains (even though two of them are fairly local), I ended up randomly buying movie tickets and watching “Green Zone” at the Lincoln Theater on Main Street.  This option left me eating a hot dog, nachos and chocolate covered almonds.  Actually not too bad.

Lincoln Theater - Belleville, Illinois

The tickets at the Lincoln were only $4.50 for the Sunday Matinee, and food was also shockingly cheap (in comparison to what I’m used to paying at movie theaters).  Afterwards, the walk back to the Metrolink station was just as pleasant as the walk there (thanks to daylight savings today it was still light).  Anyway, the trip home was pretty uneventful, but it really proved how easy it is to take a little day trip using Metro.  Total transportation fees?  $5.50 - approximately what I would have spent on gas if I had decided to undertake the hour and a half round trip (an amount of driving that I simply don’t like to do).  The moral of the story is to vote yes on Prop A.  Transit is great.  View the rest of the pictures from my day trip here.

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Downtown East St. Louis

January 6, 2010

A couple of months ago, I decided to hop on the Link and find somewhere new to take a few photographs.  I convinced a friend of mine to come along and then tricked him into jumping off the train at 5th and Missouri to check out downtown East Saint Louis.  As far as I can remember I had never seen East St. from anywhere but the highway and Built St. Louis, but I have also never gone long without hearing a reference to the city as an undesirable place.  My first first-hand experience of East St. Louis was the sprawling, parking lot facing Metrolink station, which is really only in the general vicinity of 5th and Missouri.  Unfortunately I had not done my homework and was not sure where I wanted to go, but luckily I was pulled in the right direction.

First Glance North on Missouri

Immediately after stepping onto Old Missouri Avenue I became very excited at what I was seeing.  This must have been a wonderful place to live.

East Saint Louis Streetscape

In the hour that I spent walking around East St. Louis I only ran into one other person on the street (who was looking to purchase a building on Collinsville Avenue to open a night club in), besides some people at the Metrolink stop and a man waiting at a bus stop but I’ll have to return again on a day other than Sunday.  Anyway, the city is very cool and I really hope that some of these amazing buildings can be saved and reused.  Here is a link to my photos from the day.

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Spring Ave. Viaduct and Surrounding area

January 2, 2010

I have been interested in cities and their history for as long as I can remember.  I enjoyed reading about Heinrich Schliemann‘s discovery of Troy and was fascinated by remnants of the past whose use could be speculated about.  Rarely is there an account like the Iliad to explain a site.  It wasn’t until more recently that I started to really want to personally dig into St. Louis’ history.  I transfered to SLU in 2005 and started to explore the area just south of Campus.  The first place I visited was The Armory.  The Armory was accessible to me because of a pedestrian bridge in between the two directions of highway 40 at Spring Ave, and from this pedestrian bridge I was able to see the remains of the Spring Ave. Viaduct.

Looking North from Market and Spring

For some reason seeing this old viaduct in the tattered state it was in then was fascinating to me.  Immediately I began planning a trip to the more substantial chunk of bridge remaining.

Spring Ave @ Metrolink Tracks

Unfortunately the remains of the viaduct have been torn down, which is really a pity because I wanted to see it restored as a way for SLU students to safely get to the sadly inaccessible Grand Metrolink stop.  UrbanReviewSTL proposed something similar to this back in 2007.  Hopefully the Metrolink accessibility situation will be improved when the Grand Bridge is rebuilt.

Metrolink @ Spring

This whole area where Highway 40 rolls through midtown is very interesting and makes me very curious about what Market street here looked like before the highway was built.  Recent rehabs along Forest Park Parkway such as the University Heights Loft Apartments (which I enjoyed living in for a year), the Spring Street Lofts, Six Row Brewing Company, and the Aquinas Institute of Theology are bringing life to this area that could possibly extend down to the highway and hopefully continue south.  There was a big project being planned for the entire south side of Forest Park Parkway from Vandeventer all the way to Spring or even past it, replacing the Federal Mogul Plant (which seems to be abandoned despite having a 24 hour security guard) with a large shopping center.  Luckily it seems that this is not being planned anymore as I have not been able to find any links which mention it at this time.

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Joe Edwards’ Trolley

December 20, 2009

I really love any idea to add any sort of public transportation to St. Louis, but this particular idea just seems silly to me.  Joe Edwards wants to run a Trolley from the Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park, to Kingsland and Delmar at the far western end of the Delmar Loop.  Both of these locations are in close proximity to a Metrolink station.  Consecutive Metrolink stations.  The history museum, according to Google’s Walking Directions Beta (which doesn’t really get the walking route right but does provide a good distance estimate in my opinion), is .2 miles away from the Metrolink.  A 3 minute walk.  If they were really serious about adding something beneficial to the city  and not just attracting attention to the loop, this is not the route they would have chosen.  I think that the choice of the history museum as one end of the “Loop Trolley” is because the planners of this project think of the trolley as an exhibit for the history museum and site for tourists to see in the loop, not as an addition to our city’s useful infrastructure.

Loop Trolley Route Map

On the other hand I really do like the idea of a Loop Trolley.  Not too long ago I lived close to Metcalfe Park, not far from the western end of the Loop.  I enjoy using Metrolink to get around and was pleased to be in an area in which I could walk to a station (3 in less than 15 minutes each), but I still complained about the walk and really wished I could hop on something like a trolley and get to the Metrolink station (or home from it).  I commuted to work Downtown on Metrolink for a while and would often dread the walk down Delmar to the train, but in actually making the walk I would always enjoy myself the whole way and found that the real problem was getting distracted on the walk and being late for the train!  This walk will be more enjoyable when more buildings and businesses are added around the station (which I really believe will happen soon).

It does seem counterproductive to simply complain about the current plan and not propose anything better, but lots of people have proposed plans for extending this trolley and I enjoy complaining.  I must concede that this plan could be a wonderful thing for the stretches of Delmar and DeBaliviere that would be served by the trolley but the scope just seems too small to justify such a large expense.  A project like this failing would really set us back in making real improvements to a system of public transportation which badly needs them, and a need to make visiting opposite ends of the loop easier could be solved by increasing the frequency of MetroBuses.

UPDATE:

Maybe this project could be combined with Paul McKee’s NorthSide Trolley and turned into something more substantial?

Also, WashU Students seem to have voiced opinions similar to mine in comments on this article.

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